Bush ‘will still pursue aggressive' foreign policy

By Guy Dinmore in Washington

Financial Times

Published: November 9 2004

President George W. Bush has won a mandate from the American people to continue pursuing his “aggressive” foreign policy, but the US will also reach out to the international community where it can, according to Colin Powell, the secretary of state.

“The president is not going to trim his sails or pull back,” Mr Powell told the Financial Times on Monday. “It's a continuation of his principles, his policies, his beliefs.” In his first interview since the presidential election last Tuesday, Mr Powell stressed Mr Bush had won a mandate to pursue a foreign policy that was in the US national interest.

That policy would also be in the interest of friends and alliances, and while it would be “multilateral in nature”, the US would act alone where necessary.

Mr Powell's office would not comment on whether he would remain as secretary of state during Mr Bush's second term.

Mr Powell said US foreign policy had been “aggressive in terms of going after challenges, issues”. The president was “going to keep moving in this direction”.

While referring to the controversy over Iraq and the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Mr Powell stressed that an aggressive foreign policy also covered an active approach to combating Aids and developing world issues.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said the transition of power that was taking place as Yassir Arafat lay ill in a Paris hospital presented a chance to move the peace process forward.

“We are ready to seize this opportunity aggressively,” he said, showing Washington's readiness to join Tony Blair, the British prime minister, who is due to visit the White House this week, in making Middle East policy a priority.

Mr Powell described the peace process as “one of the biggest overhangs in our foreign policy, the way it is perceived”. He did not elaborate on how the US intended to become more involved and warned that it still needed responsible partners on the Palestinian side.

Referring to co-operation between the US and Europe over Iran, Mr Powell said there was no agreement yet between Iran and the European Union three of Britain, France and Germany on its nuclear programme. The US had not endorsed a European proposal and Iran should not be given another chance to “slip away” from referral to the United Nations Security Council, he said, while confirming that “regime change” was not the US policy towards Iran. Iran and the US will be sitting at the same table in Egypt later this month at a conference on Iraq.

Asked if this could lead to more direct contact with Iran, Mr Powell replied: “We will see what develops.”

The US would urge the conference participants Iraq's neighbours, the Group of Eight industrialised nations and the five permanent members of the Security Council to do everything possible to help Iraq. He referred to additional financial contributions, electoral assistance and more Nato support for training. But he did not expect France and Germany to reverse course and send troops.